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February 28

How The Black Hair Experience Opened 4 Selfie Museums in a Year

BY: Instagram Business Team

San Francisco, CA

To celebrate Black History Month, @instagramforbusiness is spotlighting Black founders preserving and celebrating aspects of Black culture through their products and experiences. Here’s a story from Alisha Brooks and Elizabeth Austin-Davis, the co-founders of selfie museum @theblackhairexperience.

While attending a conference together, Elizabeth Austin-Davis (@elizabethaustinphoto), shared with Alisha Brooks (@browngirlhustle) her idea for a photography passion project to document the stories of Black women and their hair. Brooks, a visual artist, thought it would be innovative to turn those experiences into an interactive exhibit. On this day, the idea for The Black Hair Experience was born.

How we grew with @theblackhairexperience

The co-founders, who met as interns during their undergraduate years, launched their selfie museum in November 2020 in Atlanta. Since then, they’ve followed up with locations in the D.C. area, Dallas and Los Angeles. As the duo expanded nationwide, marketing on Instagram helped them increase their visibility and interact with new customers. “We can see the impact and mark that we are leaving on the community and the importance of sharing and telling stories,” the co-founders say.

Learn more about how Instagram helped them grow to four cities in a year.

Alisha you are a visual artist, and Elizabeth, you are a photographer. How do your backgrounds inspire your work?

Our backgrounds play a huge role in our social media plan. We both have an eye for creating spaces in-person and digitally that are aesthetically pleasing and engaging through color, dimension and texture. We build all of our activations to promote social sharing and engagement. We are very intentional about creating spaces that people are excited to share.

What’s the start-to-finish process when making your creative sets?

The process always starts with conversations about our experience with our hair. From there we usually pick several key moments that we want to turn into an activation. Next, we conceptualize the activation and render out the concepts before going into the build-out. The main priority is ensuring the designs we create connect with our audience in an authentic way.

What do you want visitors to experience while visiting?

We want visitors to take in the nostalgia, feel joy and be validated in their experiences.

You started out in Atlanta, then expanded to the D.C. area, Dallas and Los Angeles. How did Instagram help in your expansion?

Our experience has grown because of word of mouth through social media sharing. Instagram is our largest social media platform, and it has helped our growth exponentially because it’s given people a chance to share their experience and photos in real time, whether it’s through Instagram Stories or in feed. The use of hashtags helped make us searchable and then we were able to utilize paid campaigns. All of these elements helped increase our reach and made expansion to other markets possible. The more people saw us, the more our demand grew.

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What advice do you have for small business owners getting their start on Instagram?

Do not underestimate the power of social media and the importance of creating a marketing budget. If you feel that social media isn’t your strength, outsource! People need to see what you're selling and maximizing your reach is the way to do it.

What are your tips for balancing friendship with being business partners who’ve brought The Black Hair Experience to life?

Balancing friendship and business can be challenging, but it is very rewarding. In order to have a good workflow, you need to have an open and honest dialogue. Next, work to establish a strong foundation. We both live in different parts of the country, so making sure our mission and goals are aligned helps us stay focused when we are in different time zones.

Lastly, have a strong understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. This helps with balance and prevents burnout and feeling overworked.

What’s next for The Black Hair Experience?

The same thing we do every night—try to take over the world! No but seriously, we are aiming for continued growth as we continue expanding into new markets, impacting the community in a positive way through our We Care Workshop (our youth outreach program), growing our retail stores and expanding more into custom fabrication for other brands.

Looking for more inspiration from entrepreneurs who are creating products and experiences that center their communities? Check out our interview with the @thewraplife founder Nnenna Stella to learn how she built a customer base by showing her audience the many ways to wear her brand’s bright, colorful headwraps.

BY: Instagram Business Team

San Francisco, CA